When cruising the Nile, it’s lovely to see the Egyptian feluccas sailing by gracefully.
Feluccas are the traditional wooden sailboats used in Egypt.
With single sails and no engines, Egyptian feluccas are powered by the wind, zig-zagging back and forth along the Nile.
Back in the time of the pharaohs, they would have been the only means of day-to-day river transport. (Cleopatra had a sumptuous long barge, rowed by dozens of crew, for ceremonial occasions or to meet her Roman lovers.)
These days, Egyptian feluccas are mainly used to ferry visitors around who want to gain a glimpse of the silent, slow life on the river.
The stretch of the Nile between Aswan and Luxor is where you see the most Egyptian feluccas.
Felucca or river cruise boat?
Sandra Scott wrote this about her experience sailing for six days from Aswan to Luxor on a 30-foot felucca:
“Falling asleep beneath a blanket of stars listening to the distant sound of Nubian drums, awakening to the timeless call of the muezzin summoning the faithful to prayer, sailing under deep blue skies past villages frozen in time…”
But as romantic as this sounds, in truth, Egyptian feluccas are simple vessels. Life is fairly primitive on an overnight cruise. Eating, talking, sleeping – it all takes place on top of one open-space area.
For us, a luxury riverboat was the way to go (we’ve cruised the Nile on both Oberoi and Sanctuary Retreats’ riverboats).
Half-day felucca sailing in Aswan
On both occasions though, we enjoyed a half-day of sailing on a felucca around the Aswan islands. (How can you go to Eygpt and NOT sail on an Egyptian felucca?)
As is typical, our Nubian boat captains piloted the rudder with one foot – one captain also simultaneously played his banjo for us.
We saw fishermen beat the water with poles, then catch 18-inch Nile perch that jumped into their nets.
Camels in the distance plodded along a sandy ridge at the edge of the Sahara desert.
The figs, palms, exotic tropical plants and shady trees of the botanical gardens on Kitchener’s Island loomed lush and green as we circled the island given to Lord Horatio Kitchener in the 1890s in recognition of his military service in the Sudan.
A gentle breeze kept us pleasantly cool. And the sun set slowly on our peaceful and calm surroundings – just as it would have in the days of the pharaohs.